View from the Foothills of France

Some personal views on living, working,
bringing up family and making the dream happen in the most beautiful region of France. View from the Foothills of France also includes some personal and professional thoughts and tips on finding and buying the perfect property in the Ariège and Haute Garonne regions.

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‘S no W time to invest in the Alps, the Pyrenees is the place to be

While the Autumn colours and blue sky days are still in full swing here in the foothills, snow has arrived up in the mountains of the Pyrenees and thoughts are turning to skiing, winter sports, log fires, warming cassoulets and vin chaud. In terms of property search enquiries, the focus is now on ski properties either in small mountain villages or in the bigger towns in the valleys with easy access to various ski resorts and facilities such as cafés, restaurants, and spa facilities all within walking distance.

While the Alps have become overpriced both for property and for skiing, here in the Pyrenees, excellent value mountain properties can still be found for buyers seeking boltholes they can use winter and summer, rent out easily and hopefully reap some eventual capital gain.

The last decade has seen massive investment in the resorts here in the Pyrenees, resulting in better access and faster lifts, many more snow-making machines and better infrastructure. Surprisingly, however, property prices have not risen at the same rate as these improvements so that ski property in the Pyrenees is currently looking like a very good buy.

In addition, skiing and holidaying in the Pyrenees is still relatively affordable, most notably, when it comes to ski passes, food, and accommodation thanks to the fact that, in the mountain villages of the Pyrenees, the restaurants and shops are mostly small family run enterprises whose primary aim is simply to make a living. This is not an area of commercial savvy and most small businesses have been here for generations. They also tend to operate year-round as part of the local community, as they have for centuries, as opposed to fleecing the tourists as much as possible during the few short months of the winter season. It is the same story with lift passes which are around half the price of those in the Alps.

So not only is the dream of a ski property achievable here in the Pyrenees, you will also save money when you come on holiday and there is also an excellent year-round rental market.

For more information and advice, please do get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

 

The ten priorities when buying a house in France

  1. Location: consider the orientation of the house, the proximity to amenities, the access to the things you are most interested in doing (nice restaurants, good walking, cycling, local markets, community, skiing etc). They are your ‘whys’ of buying a house in France in the first place.
  2. Budget: determine your budget and look for houses within that price range. Don’t assume that you can negotiate a much better price especially here in France where French sellers usually expect to get asking price or as near as and are often not in a rush and happy to wait until they do. If you need a mortgage, understand what you can afford before beginning your research to avoid heartbreak later.
  3. Size and layout: consider the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, living spaces, and storage. Make sure that you are looking at the bone structure of the property, not how the current owners are using it. See past the décor and taste of the sellers and try to imagine how it would work for you.
  4. Condition: assess the condition of the property, including the state of the roof, plumbing, and electrical systems. Is it obviously well looked after and maintained?
  5. Amenities: consider the availability of amenities like a garden, garage, or swimming pool and the practicalities of the house.
  6. Energy efficiency: look for properties with energy-efficient features such as double-glazed windows, thick walls, south-facing position, solar panels and insulation.
  7. Schools: if you have children, consider the quality and proximity of schools in the area.
  8. Legal requirements: be aware of any legal requirements and restrictions in the region such as historical building protections.
  9. Proximity to neighbors: consider the proximity of neighbors and potential noise levels but also, if a holiday home, the proximity of neighbours to be able to keep an eye on the property in your absence.
  10. Future plans: consider any future plans you have, such as starting a family, putting in a swimming pool, running gites/bed and breakfast or working from home, and make sure the property you choose can accommodate them.

Most of all, do remember that your perfect house probably doesn’t exist but the property with the potential to be your perfect house does – but only if it meets your key priorities. Then you know that you can make it work for you.

If you need any help with your French property search, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com

 

In the press – tips on finding the perfect holiday home

Wild-water and cold-water swimming in the Pyrénées

As the temperatures steadily rise at this time of year, the French head to the water; either to the seaside, or to one of the many inland lakes dotted around France. Here in the Ariège, we are lucky to be able to choose either the Atlantic coast or the Mediterranean for a day trip or short break but closer (and more appealing in summer when the coasts are packed) are the beautiful mountain lakes and the crystal-clear rivers and streams high in the Pyrénées. These run directly from their mountain springs, starting as trickles which turn to streams and gradually increase in size as they make their way downwards, augmented by the snowmelt and creating beautiful waterfalls, eventually becoming rivers as they descend down to the valleys.

With the popularity of wild water and cold-water swimming, many more people have begun to appreciate the benefits and enjoyment of swimming in natural water sources but, it is often tempered with the worry about the quality of the water in many parts of the world.

This is the advantage of the mountain lakes and rivers here which are very close to their source; natural springs rising up from deep inside the mountains, high in the unspoiled Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Ariègeoises, above the villages and away from all agriculture and crops and hence unlikely to be polluted.

The only disadvantage (as far as I am concerned) is that the mountain lakes can be freezing cold and the rivers are still also pretty chilly, certainly in the early summer, while the final snow is still melting. But now that cold-water immersion is a ‘thing’ and apparently very good for our health, there is even more reason to head up on a hot day to swim or paddle in some of the most beautiful wild water spots to be found anywhere. Plus, unlike at the beach, there are no crowds, and you can always find your own, completely private, secret spot complete with waterfall, swimming pool, flat rocks for sitting and stony beach areas, perfect for picnics.

 

If you are thinking of buying a property in France or would like help with your property search, please get in touch: nadia@foothillsoffrance.com